When I was a line cook, I remember a sous chef handing me micro lemongrass and asking me to taste it. I was blown away and immediately asked him what it was and where it was from. When I was promoted to sous chef 3 years ago, and took over all of the ordering, I started really diving into all the Chefs Garden had to offer. It was then I started to closely follow The Culinary Vegetable Institute. Even more so when I heard Jamie Simpson was becoming the executive chef.
The main reason I am excited to be at the CVI is the potential for growth is endless. Between constantly evolving and developing techniques in the kitchen from savory applications to baking and pastry, there is also the opportunity to work with some of the best chefs in the world. The team at CVI is small and tight knit so there is always a constant flow of collaboration and brainstorming. I really hope to just grow my knowledge bank on literally everything food and farm related.
The commitment, the dedication and the attention to detail that the whole team exhibits. Each person WANTS to be at work and wants to be that crucial element in assuring the product arrives to the Chef just as the Chef expects when he or she orders. The vegetables, plants and herbs and flowers and stems - all of it. What is there not to be inspired about? The quality and the uniqueness of each varietal of plant is astounding. I have only begun to scratch the surface.
We just built out the 2017 calendar and the list of potential events and guest chefs is pretty incredible. I am definitely excited for our vegetable showcase series and of course, Roots. We have some pretty cool things coming up that I can't really divulge until we iron out the details.
I really like a lot of the edible flowers and leaves. Things that I feel like would kind of get looked over elsewhere. Right now the potatoes are incredible. Especially the sweet potatoes. I ended up using some of the fingerling sweet potatoes and did a mini twice baked as a garnish for sweet potato soup. Nice and simple.
I am really excited to get back into tomato season. Charleston has a lot of great farms - trust me, I love a good John's Island Yellow Tomato just as much as the next chef. However, I have not had a better tomato than the tomatoes that are grown at The Chef's Garden. Incredible.
I really felt the draw of the kitchen. I started working in kitchens in high school but mostly high volume, fast casual/fast food kind of thing to make some cash on the weekends. In college I worked in a “from scratch” cafe/deli for a while before moving to a more refined environment. I just felt like I belonged. I made the decision to really start making a career out of it almost right as the time I was graduating college. I really liked food. I really liked learning to make something better than the time before. I also liked the creativity it inspired because of my background in art, it just made sense. I never want to stop learning.
Maybe cliche, but I would really love to just spend 6 months to a year going all over France. And somehow sneak up to Faviken and pick herbs or wash dishes for Magnus Nilsson. France is where it all started, right? I think it would be amazing to spend time along the coast, in the country and in the cities all over. Working with local farmers and learning their way of life, to learning brigade style service in 3 star Michelin restaurants. It would be great to make soups and stews in country kitchens alongside of the road in the mountains. Maybe I could also learn about aging cheese in caves and caverns and everything in between. Learn it all.
We do a lot of preservation, curing and fermenting during the winter. It's really an amazing opportunity to build a pantry up during the winter so when you need that one extra element in the summer you can just pop down to the root cellar and grab some fermented cabbage or salsify, pickled beets, fruit preserve.
Click here to read more about Chef de Cuisine Matt Ward.